They moved to the dining room. The senator sat on one side of the table, Mark sat on the end of the table, adjacent to the senator, and Mary Lou sat across from the senator.
"I instructed Mark here, not to tell you anything about what this was about before today, Mary Lou. Other than, of course, what he had to reveal in trying to find somebody he thought was very capable of doing the job and most trustworthy. I must admit that you come most highly recommended from my friend, Bill Telford, and too many others to mention. I guess Bill's your boss?"
Mary Lou nodded. "I guess in a way he's my boss, but I haven't ever worked directly for or with him, since he's now mostly given up the grunt-type work that peons like me do for the firm, and he's mostly into promoting the business these days. He brings in the big clients, though. I'm pretty certain I'd be a failure at that type of work."
"Well, that sounds like the Bill Telford I know," the senator said. "I guess we ought to dive into the reason for our meeting. I am confident your not ignorant of the news about my indictment, so I guess we need to address that issue to some degree today. Sorry we have to do it on the Sabbath. I'll try to keep it brief. Mark, can you give her a condensed version of what you understand is going on."
"All right," Mark said. "The news has been reporting that this involves money laundering and income taxes, I believe. Let me flesh it out a bit for you. What the government accuses the senator of doing is promoting, along with a web of co-conspirators, tax shelters among American citizens and legal residents who belong to Mexican drug cartels. They also say that the senator helped the cartels launder millions of dollars of drug money through various of his constituents' businesses and exempt organizations. That's it in a nutshell. I can give you more details tomorrow, assuming we start working on this together tomorrow."
Mary Lou was confused. "What do you mean, assuming we start working together tomorrow on it? I thought that that was settled."
The senator spoke. "Well, I just wanted to meet with you first to make sure you're okay working on this sensitive and highly public case. So you're okay doing this kind of work?"
"I believe I already indicated to Mark that I was. Of course, I wasn't certain, frankly, who it involved nor the degree of its publicity. I'm not quite certain, even now, exactly what the work entails and, for certain, I'm not at all clued in to what the financial details will reveal about these matters alleged witch Mark has sketched out. That's the nature of accounting and tax work, generally speaking, figuring things out in accordance with policy, principles, and law. You often don't know, as an accountant, what you've got until you dig in and analyze everything there is. But yeah, I'm okay doing accounting and tax work, if that's what's involved here. That's what I do: accounting and tax work. On the other hand, if what you're asking me is, am I willing to bend my findings to be something that they are not, then the answer is, no, I'm not interested in that. I'm not interested in anything unlawful or unethical. If that's involved, please find somebody else."
"No, no, we don't want you to do any bending," Mark said. "We want you to analyze the data --- and there is plenty of data to be analyzed --- and after you do so, we want you to make your best assessment to us of what it reveals, but only to us. We don't want anything that isn't objectively analyzed and accurately reported as per your expert opinion as a capable CPA."
"Yes, and I concur one hundred percent," the senator said. "No messing around skirting ethics or the law."
"Well, then, I don't see any problem whatsoever. As far as I'm concerned, the chips will fall where they will fall, and that's all that I'll report is exactly how the chips fall. As to what you do with them --- well, that your business, Mark's, as a lawyer, and you Senator Orr, as a public servant."
"That's all fine and good, then" the senator said. "The other matter is about privacy. Nobody can know anything about your work or your findings relative to all of this unless I say so. Is that okay and understood? You're working for me and the information is intended only for me and Mark here."
"That was my understanding, and it is my agreement. You can count on me, as long as what I'm doing is not illegal and it is under the auspices of Mark. Of course if the information reveals you are abusing kids --- well, then that's another matter."
"Well, it's not. All right, then," said the senator.
"Okay, let's dive into this a little deeper," Mark said. "Senator, did you bring those documents we talked about two days ago?"
"That's what I have in my briefcase," the senator said. He lifted the briefcase to the tabletop and opened it. It was crammed full of documents. I hoped we didn't have to go through all that this afternoon. We'd be here all night.
"Let's start with this one," he said. He handed Mark a copy and me a copy, ostensibly of the same thing. If everything in the briefcase was in triplicate, that cut the work down two-thirds right there. I relaxed a little.